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Jose Can You See

Being perceived as blog-troversial is kind of a new thing for me, but apparently I am after I (gasp) had good things to say about Paul Lo Duca. I wonder what the reaction is going to be when I make nice regarding the signing of Jose Valentin.

This one's a little harder, because the guy is a career .241 hitter, whose closest comparable at the plate, Mets-wise, is Dave Kingman. But by all accounts, Valentin is a much better person than King Kong. He was nominated by the White Sox for the Roberto Clemente Award in each of of his last four seasons with the team, and has his own charitable foundation to raise money for low-income children with special health needs.

Of course that's not necessarily important to those who flock here wanting to know how the latest Mets acquisitions will help the team win 130 games this season, but I place some value in inhabiting a clubhouse with good people. There's only so much goodwill that you can tolerate with a Mendoza-line batting average, I suppose.

Anyways, from a baseball perspective, Jose Valentin has a couple of odd accolades to his credit. He's one of only three White Sox to have hit 25 or more home runs in five straight seasons (joining Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez), but of course, the year after he leaves, they win the World Series. He's also one of only two switch-hitters to hit three homers in a game more than once (former Met Eddie Murray is the other and while he's a nice person to share a list with, the thought doesn't exactly stir pleasant Mets memories).

Admittedly, since he is 36 and has bad knees, the man's best days are behind him, but it's worth an inexpensive flyer to see if he's capable of Marlon Anderson-esque type feats. His best days are actually my subject here, since you knew I'd get around to tying this back to walk-offs eventually.

May 9th, 2001 was a pretty good one for Valentin, though he was without an RBI, despite a 3-for-4 day, when he came up with a man on second and one out in the last of the ninth inning, with the White Sox and Angels tied, 5-5. Valentin entered the game in a 2-for-21, but that was forgiven and forgotten after his double over the head of Angels rightfielder Tim Salmon gave the Sox a walk-off win.

Two days later, the White Sox were a little down, having recently learned that Frank Thomas would miss the rest of the season with a tricep injury. Valentin lifted them with two home runs, both from the right side of the plate (he has since abandoned switch-hitting and bats solely from the left side). The second was a walk-off shot in the 10th inning, catapaulting the Sox to a 6-5 walk-off win over the Texas Rangers.

Circle Mets bench coach Jerry Manuel as a fan of Valentin's. After that game, the then-Chicago manager told reporters "Jose's the heartbeat of this team."

So while your heart probably isn't in thump-thump mode over this move, you can probably guess that Valentin's is, since he's on a club with good friend Carlos Beltran. I suppose what determines whether you'll like him is whether his bat is in thump-thump mode too.

True Metentins know...Jose Valentin, Babe Ruth, and Mark McGwire are among a rare group of major leaguers who have had a three-homer game in each league. The others on the list, as supplied to the 2005 Dodgers media guide by the folks at the Society for American Baseball Research- Darnell Coles, Erubiel Durazo, Dave Kingman, Johnny Mize, Larry Parrish, Cory Snyder, Darryl Strawberry, and Claudell Washington. Kingman, Strawberry and Washington all had three-homer games with the Mets.


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